David Cloninger

Five greatest wins in South Carolina history

Wow! Gamecocks celebrate win over Duke, head to Sweet 16

The South Carolina men's basketball celebrates the win over Duke in the NCAA Tournament.
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The South Carolina men's basketball celebrates the win over Duke in the NCAA Tournament.

1. SHOES OF GLASS

March 19, 2017

After making the tournament for the first time since 2004 and winning its first NCAA tournament game since 1973, most felt the Gamecocks had accomplished all their goals for the season. They had finally gotten the burden of a 44-year winless streak off their shoulders, and about to play Duke in the second round … hey, great season, guys.

Sindarius Thornwell never thought that way. He figured if USC was in, why not go win?

USC posted the most points in the second half (65) that a Mike Krzyzewski Duke team ever gave up. USC rolled into its first Sweet 16 of the current tournament format.

2. ‘JUMP TO THE MOON, KID’

March 13, 1971

In the days of only the conference tournament champion advancing to the NCAA tournament, USC lost its chance in 1970 when John Roche’s sprained ankle cost the Gamecocks an ACC tournament game against NC State.

Playing North Carolina in the 1971 ACC tournament final, USC trailed 51-50. A jumpball was called between 6-foot-3 Kevin Joyce and 6-10 UNC center Lee Dedmon.

Somehow, Joyce followed coach Frank McGuire’s advice, out-leaped Dedmon and tipped the ball to Tom Owens, who laid in the ball. The Gamecocks won 52-51 and advanced to their first NCAA tournament.

3. SEC-OND TO NONE

March 2, 1997

USC had already clinched the SEC regular-season championship. The only question was whether or not Kentucky would finish as “co-champion.”

As Eddie Fogler told his troops in the Rupp Arena locker room, they didn’t go there to share.

The undisputed champs, led by BJ McKie and Melvin Watson, rocked Kentucky 72-66 to spoil the Wildcats’ Senior Day, Rick Pitino was ejected and USC finished a program-best 15-1 in the SEC. It’s still the Gamecocks’ only SEC title.

4. THE LITTLE MAN

Jan. 26, 2010

Playing for something, anything in a year that started with so much promise only to see a season-ending injury to Dominique Archie and Mike Holmes kicked off the team, the Gamecocks were trying to break a three-game SEC losing streak.

The opponent was Kentucky, ranked No. 1 in the country. John Wall. DeMarcus Cousins. Big Bad Blue. But Devan Downey ran through Kentucky for 30 points while his teammates played their best all-around game, 68-62. The Gamecocks beat a No. 1 team for the first time to cause a court-storming, and USC proved it could hang with – and beat – anyone.

5. NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP*

March 31, 2005

St. Joseph’s tied the game with a 3-pointer, 7.5 seconds to go. Tarence Kinsey didn’t hesitate. The junior received the inbound pass and ran directly to his spot on the right wing. Green light or no, Kinsey was going to shoot.

He pulled up, fired with perfect form and watched his own 3-ball nestle through the net, turned upcourt and yanked his jersey from his chest to show off his “heart.” The Hawks couldn’t convert with 1.9 to play, the Gamecocks won the 2005 NIT 60-57 and there was so much promise for the days ahead.

As coach Dave Odom said, the NIT is a national championship.

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